Congress was supposed to extend the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by Oct. 1. As regular readers know, that was the day current funding for the program, which has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support, expired. That was exactly two months ago. As things stand, there is no solution and Republicans don't appear to be working on one.
Last night, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), an ardent CHIP proponent, urged Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who helped write the original CHIP legislation before moving sharply to the right, to restore funding for the program before families get hurt. Daily Kos flagged this striking clip from the Senate floor.
For those who can't watch clips online, this was the case from the Utah Republican:
"[L]et me tell you something: we're going to do CHIP. There's no question about it in my mind. It's got to be done the right way. But we, the reason CHIP's having trouble is because we don't have money anymore."
Hatch went on to condemn the idea of "more and more spending." After praising the "terrific job" CHIP has done for families who need help, he immediately added, "I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won't help themselves -- won't lift a finger -- and expect the federal government to do everything."
The context for the exchange between Hatch and Brown was quite extraordinary: this happened on the Senate floor during a debate over the Republican tax plan.
In other words, Orrin Hatch was trying to pass a massive series of tax cuts, the vast majority of which will benefit large corporations and the wealthiest of the wealthy. What's more, as the Washington Post's Catherine Rampell recently explained, The Republican tax bill is often described as being weighted toward 'the rich.' But that's not the full story. It's actually weighted toward the loafer, the freeloader, the heir, the passive investor who spends his time yachting and charity-balling. In short: the idle rich."
The price tag for the GOP tax plan is roughly $1.5 trillion.
Meanwhile, there's the Children's Health Insurance Program, which needs $15 billion. In other words, CHIP costs literally 1% of the overall cost of the Republican tax package.
And yet, there was Orrin Hatch, a supporter of his party's tax cuts, making the case on the Senate floor that CHIP's "having trouble" because "we don't have money anymore."
I feel like I'm stuck in a Dickensian nightmare.